Monday, March 31, 2014

Thinking about it

We're at the stage of the little game where Bobby Jindal pretends to now be "thinking and praying" about running for President.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal confirmed he is considering running for president in 2016, during an interview with the Heritage Foundation during its annual Resource Bank meeting in New Orleans.

"It's something we're thinking about. It's something we'll pray about. But...we have to win the war of ideas first," Jindal told Genevieve Wood of Heritage's The Foundry, a right-leaning news service, during the meeting this past week. "We've got to win the elections in 2014. And after we do that, we're certainly giving it some thought."
We all know Jindal has been thinking about being President ever since before most of us even knew him.  So this is really more like a coming out party than anything else.

Still, it's an important moment in Jindal's career. Now that he's acknowledged publicly that he's thinking about running, he's pretty much committed to keep thinking about it. Probably for the rest of his life.  Or until he's elected, you know, whatever comes first.  Taking this long view of things, Moseley concludes there's plenty time left for it to be the former.
First off, presidential candidates require some amount of delusion. It’s essential for any human who believes he or she should lead the most powerful nation in world history. And long-shot candidates who intend to hop from state-level politics to the top of the heap — in only one election cycle, yet! — well, they need a double serving of delusion.

But that’s not such a bad thing. (Clancy) DuBos himself observed that sometimes candidates who ignore the odds can actually improve their chances. It’s true. Over time, “delusion” can start to look like perseverance. If a talented candidate adheres to an ambitious strategy, at some point he or she might find that opening. (Then it becomes a matter of sticking a  paddle deep in the political rapids and attempting to jet through the sluice.)
Jindal is still only 42 years old.  There's plenty time left for him to come up with all sorts of delusions now that he's officially commenced with the thinking.  

Morning agit-prop

Not bad. A little goofy, maybe.


All working for the banks
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.
Once you've managed to define a bunch of annoying kids sitting around stinking up a park with their drums and other nonsense as "terrorism" you've entered a whole new and weird area.
There is a new twist: the merger of the private sector, DHS and the FBI means that any of us can become WikiLeaks, a point that Julian Assange was trying to make in explaining the argument behind his recent book. The fusion of the tracking of money and the suppression of dissent means that a huge area of vulnerability in civil society – people's income streams and financial records – is now firmly in the hands of the banks, which are, in turn, now in the business of tracking your dissent.

Remember that only 10% of the money donated to WikiLeaks can be processed – because of financial sector and DHS-sponsored targeting of PayPal data. With this merger, that crushing of one's personal or business financial freedom can happen to any of us. How messy, criminalizing and prosecuting dissent. How simple, by contrast, just to label an entity a "terrorist organization" and choke off, disrupt or indict its sources of financing

"Open secret"

It sure seems like it's taken a while to crack the open secret all the way open but better late than never.
As a defense attorney, Gibbens served on the team representing Fred Heebe, co-owner of landfill company River Birch Inc., as federal officials began to probe allegations that Heebe had bribed officials for preferential treatment.

By then, the fact that at least one federal prosecutor was using Nola.com comments to weigh in on cases had been an open secret in New Orleans’ clubby legal community for years. It was a secret that Gibbens and co-counsel Kyle Schonekas would use to explosive effect in a defamation suit when they — with the help of a former FBI profiler — identified Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone as the author of 595 comments posted on Nola.com under the handle “Henry L. Mencken1951.”
The moment Heebe trotted out his forensic divination charlatan guy two years ago, many readers immediately suspected Perricone was more likely to have been outed by the grapevine.  All of these people know each other. Heebe, himself, was almost nominated to be US Attorney once. The whole thing is one big "clubby" inside game.

And remember we still don't know all of the identities of the prosecutors who took part in what increasingly looks like a coordinated public propaganda campaign.  We don't know how high up it went. Some have suggested that one of the remaining suspicious comments handles belonged to Jim Letten himself.  It's also possible that one or more participants in or people with knowledge of the scheme are still on staff at the US Attorney's office.  At a recent appearance, the new boss Ken Polite said that "he spends an inexcusably inordinate amount of time dealing with internal personnel issues."

As for this Gibbens character, it's difficult not to admire him a little bit.  Sure some crooks may get off the hook thanks to his efforts.  But not all crooks are created equal.  Justice in the Danziger case would be worth twenty Ray Nagins walking free, for example.  All of that notwithstanding, it seems appropriate that someone stand up to the haughty bullying, public grandstanding, and sockpuppet propagandizing Jim Letten and his deputies disgraced his office with.

The issues all of this raises for the press are serious, though.  And I don't mean to give the principles at issue short shrift.  But, in practice,  it's not entirely clear that they don't deserve a bit of comeuppance themselves for the role they've played at times. But that's pretty much an open secret too.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Late breaking Entrepreneur Week suggestion

Shouldn't somebody go out in the Gulf and try to harvest, culture, and patent the oil-eating "magic microbes"?  Seems like there might be lots of customers out there if you could sell those.

Your right of birth, your empery, your own

Many possible contenders for the crown here. Apparently there's some sort of secret plan in place.
Benson has always preferred to keep personal business matters private, but quietly in recent years, he, his family and key Saints executives have prepared a succession plan to secure the futures of both franchises beyond his tenure.

Details of the plan remain confidential, but Benson's daughter Renee Benson and her two children, Rita Benson LeBlanc and Ryan LeBlanc, would assume ownership of the franchises, said Greg Bensel, Saints/Pelicans vice president of communications.

"Mr. Benson has an estate plan in place, and that plan obviously includes provisions for the transfer of ownership of both professional sport franchises," Bensel said. "As Mr. Benson has stated in numerous articles, ownership will be transferred to members of his family."
But imperial heirs have ways of  becoming dissatisfied with their inheritances.  It's not quite a constitutional crisis or anything just yet. Benson doesn't seem ready to check out any time soon. Hell, he's only 86. He could still run for Congress.  But maybe someone should keep a closer eye on the princes in the tower just in case.

Not by accident

Our friend James Reiss again
The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."
The reason I keep digging up this quote is not only because it's so explicit. I keep bringing it up because it is representative of the mainstream view among upper and middle class white New Orleanians stretching back through my entire life.

The news rarely reports it this way. And our celebrated tide of recent arrivals don't understand the degree to which they are pawns in this. But whenever you hear.. Jackie Clarkson, for example, praising the influx of young white professionals to New Orleans, this is the reason.
The gentrification that is transforming parts of New Orleans is also showing up in voter registration numbers, driving up the proportion of white voters in some of the city’s state legislative districts, according to a new analysis by pollster John Couvillon.

He compared registration figures from April 2010 with those from this month and found that the six biggest declines in black voting clout in Louisiana all came from New Orleans districts.
For instance, the Senate district represented by Karen Carter Peterson went from 56 percent black to 51 percent.

In Walt Leger’s House district, the percentage of black voters dropped from 64 percent to 60 percent.

Couvillon said these declines could have real political consequences, although they do not seem to have translated into big gains in the city for Republicans, as might be expected. In a blog post on the website of his polling company, JMC Enterprises, Couvillon wrote that gentrification in New Orleans “could be the genesis for a voter base of urban, white liberal Democrats (because the districts in question have remained heavily Democratic).”
Of course to say it doesn't translate into "big gains in the city for Republicans" is to miss the point.  It means big gains for white yuppies regardless of nominal party affiliation. 

Anyway, it's important to remember that none of these changes came about by accident. They are instead the result of decades-long wish fulfillment brought about by the "opportunity" presented by Katrina's "blank slate."  Occasionally it's necessary to remind the amnesiacs around here about the way this works. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

One more thing and then I'm taking the afternoon off from the internet

Go read The Lens for the local roundup.

And here's some TV to watch. It's Bill Moyers interviewing Diane Ravitch on the charter school boondoggle.

This week, Forbes Magazine sent a reporter to New Orleans for "Entrepreneur Week" and, naturally, to effusively and unthinkingly praise our charter school movement.
But it is not just startups that give this city such entrepreneurial energy.  Alongside the tech startups is one of the nation’s most innovative educational experiments.  New Orleans boasts one of the largest concentrations of Teach for America and City Year alumni outside New York.   These young leaders are remaining here, creating non-profits to serve the city and opening charter schools at a rapid pace.  Indeed, these education entrepreneurs, in partnership with the city, have led New Orleans to have over two thirds of their students in charter schools – the highest rate in the nation.

But Ravitch questions the value of entrepreneurship as a model for public education.
BILL MOYERS: You have said that within ten years, there'll be cities in this country without public education.

DIANE RAVITCH: I think at the rate we're moving now, we will see places like Detroit, New Orleans, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and many, many other cities where public schools become, if they still exist, they will be a dumping ground for the kids that the charter schools don't want. We will see the privatization of public education run rampant.

BILL MOYERS: But not everyone will grieve with you over the loss of public education. There are parents across the country who feel that public schools have let them and their children down. And they're looking for alternatives. They’re not going to grieve with you.

DIANE RAVITCH: One of the points that I wanted to make strongly in this book is that American public education is not failing. It's not declining. It’s not obsolete.

BILL MOYERS: Contrary to the prevailing public mythology?

DIANE RAVITCH: Absolutely. American public schools deal with immense problems. The biggest problem in our society today is that nearly 25 percent of our children live in poverty. And most of those kids will go to public schools and will bring all their problems through the door. And teachers will tell you they have kids in their classroom where a parent was murdered, where the children didn't getting anything to eat yesterday. Where the children are homeless.

These are the problems our public schools are dealing with. And they're, in most cases, doing an absolutely heroic job. But where public schools are in trouble it's because the community's in trouble. And instead of breaking up public schools and sending the kids off into the hands of some entrepreneurs, we should be addressing the needs and problems of the children.

BILL MOYERS: If the for-profit motive were taken out of charter schools, do you think they have potential?

DIANE RAVITCH: No, because I think that what charter schools should be is what they were originally supposed to be. They were originally supposed to be a collaborative, cooperating with public schools, trying to solve problems that public schools couldn't solve. The original idea was that they would go out and find their dropouts and bring them back.

They would help the kids who lacked all motivation and bring these lessons back to public schools to help them. What they have become is competitors. And they're cutthroat competitors. And in fact, because of No Child Left Behind and because of Race to the Top, there is so much emphasis on test scores, that the charters are incentivized to try to get the highest possible scores.

And now that there are so many hedge-fund people involved, they want to win. They want to say to these guys who are on another school board, my charter got higher scores than yours. So if you're going to make scores the be all and the end all of education, you don't want the kids with disabilities. You don't want the kids who don't speak English. You don't want the troublemakers. You don't want the kids with low scores. You want to keep those kids out. And the charters have gotten very good at finding out how to do that.

This week Katy Reckdahl reported on the difficulties New Orleans's Vietnamese and its growing Hispanic population experience finding local schools that meet their children's needs.
As a result of these gaps in services, the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association, known as VAYLA, partnered last year with the national Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund to file a federal complaint. They did so on behalf of 35 Spanish- or Vietnamese-speaking parents with students at five named schools as well as all other non-English-speaking parents of children throughout the city’s public school system.

The complaint alleged that the Orleans Parish School District and the state-run Recovery School District, both of which oversee charter schools as well as traditional, centrally administered schools, routinely fall short of federally mandated translation services for parents who speak little or no English.

Part of the problem stems directly from charterization.
Stand-alone charter schools can’t tap into a traditional school district’s cache of bilingual curriculum materials or rely on a central office to assess new students’ English-language fluency. Many of the schools are now striving to create these resources, but without the economies of scale that can be realized by sharing interpreters or bilingual teachers systemwide.

“They’re operating like silos,” said Ofelia García, a professor of urban education at the City University of New York who has edited and authored several books about bilingual and language education.
Reckdahl also reports that charters which function as part of larger networks do have more resources to apply toward bilingual support. From this we might conclude that the solution would be for the school board or RSD to grant only one or a few charters to large organizations to run the entire system for them.  But then that sort of defeats the whole argument in favor of entrepreneurial competition in the first place, doesn't it.

It's a phony argument, anyway.  As Ravitch points out, the "competition" between charters isn't to provide the best service in their public mission. Instead they are incentivized to outscramble one another for students likely to test well.  Here's her interview.

Louisiana Tsunami

In case you didn't have enough to worry about.
Researchers with the National Weather Service say a 15-foot wall of water could roll across Grand Isle if a landslide occurred in the Mississippi Canyon, a trench in the Gulf of Mexico floor about 30 miles off the mouth of the Mississippi River.

And unlike a hurricane, residents would have just an hour’s notice, not days.

Such landslides have happened about once every 1,000 years in that area – and that time frame is almost up.
On the other hand, maybe this is an opportunity.  This is "Entrepreneur Week" after all.  Surely someone will figure out a way to turn the possible need for sudden getaways  into a money-making idea.  Here are two we'll throw out there.

Sprintability: It's a real estate app that rates neighborhoods based on their proximity to evacu-spot pick up locations.  It also periodically spits out inane promotional listicles calculated to attract shares on Facebook like this one

And, of course, Uber. Because 1) Anyone who ever speaks or writes about entrepreneurial innovation is legally required to mention it. And 2) They'll make a killing off the surge charges once all the evacu-spot buses are full.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


We're well onto the backside of the "digital revolution" in mass media now with all its attendant benefits and disadvantages. 

On the plus side, news is more immediately available now. Also, despite a recent trend away from it, reader interaction still carries more weight than it did before everything began to move online.  

On the minus side, we've reached the point where "social media" has become its own profession in a way that much more resembles the world of advertising and PR than it does that of journalism or activism.  But that's probably inevitable.  No matter what it is people are into, money finds a way to crowd out people's organic influence over that activity eventually.

Despite all of these shifts in the landscape, the number one problem with professional media remains groupthink.
I used to spend some time trying to figure this out. Those of us who were against it were against it, in part, because it didn't make any fucking sense at all. The nation was gaslighted by the Very Serious People who had no idea why the fuck they thought this was a glorious adventure. 
And so the need for honest independent feedback and discussion still exists. For a while, we kind of had some of that.  But now that professional media, social media and the ad business have blended to become.. whatever this new thing is...  we're starting to lose that little bit.  

Other places to get shrimp

You might remember this kernel of wisdom from a few years back.
BP representative Hugh Depland said that while the company wasn’t sure exactly when more workers would be hired, the $239 billion company was spending “a lot of money, time and effort to bring this event to a close.”   And to those worried restaurateurs facing rising prices for shrimp and oysters? In the words of fellow BP rep Randy Prescott: “Louisiana isn’t the only place that has shrimp.”
He's right. It isn't the only place.  But we're crossing the other places off the list too.
In 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, nearly 5.8 million pounds of fish were commercially harvested from Galveston Bay, at a combined wholesale value of $16.4 million.

More than one-10th of that income comes from shrimp, which are among the most vulnerable species to the oil spill, in part because the brown shrimp’s spawning season is already underway, beginning in earnest near the end of March. The spawning happens in the Gulf of Mexico, but soon afterward the new shrimp larvae will spend days, if not weeks, drifting in the water toward the bay and shoreline marshes. That’s where they will metamorphose into baby shrimp, eventually maturing into adults and returning to the Gulf after several months.

Job creators

So to re-cap, the bad news is we're still waiting on the research to tell us how to rebuild the Louisiana coast.

But the good news is, whenever we get around to figuring that out, we could put a lot of people to work on it.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A study commissioned by an environmental group says funding the state's multi-billion-dollar, 50-year master plan for coastal protection and restoration would create anywhere from 109,000 to 212,000 permanent jobs while spurring the economy with billions in spending related to the projects.
But then the bad news again is this is a study by Tim Ryan so who knows what those numbers are really worth.

And the worse news is we'll probably just keep building oil pipelines instead.
Landrieu was never going to be a darling of the environmental movement. She represents a state dotted with oil wells and refineries, and sides with the fossil fuel industry more often than not. She also backs the Keystone XL pipeline at a time when opposition to the oil sands project has become the green movement's call to arms.

The Louisiana Democrat also holds considerable sway over energy policy. She's the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and if another bipartisan energy bill comes out of Congress under Landrieu's watch, it would be covered in her fingerprints.

Research proceding in geologic time

The longer it takes us to figure this stuff out, the less Louisiana will be left to save if that's even possible anymore.
For decades the solution to the state’s coastal land loss seemed simple: Just punch a few holes in Mississippi River levees and let the mud-rich water spill out over marshes to build new land.

After all, that’s just what the river did for millennia before those mud walls went up after the epic 1927 flood.

But as the first in-depth study of the lower river in 50 years pushes past its mid-way point, the scientists involved have a few words of advice: It isn’t that easy — not even close.

Sinkhole hungry

So this is still happening.
BAYOU CORNE, La. —Parish officials say the 29-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish swallowed six cypress trees Wednesday and had its first deep burp of gas and fluid since late August.

The Advocate reports the event comes nearly two weeks after lead scientists investigating the sinkhole for state regulators said the hole seemed to be on the path to stabilizing.


I suppose libertarian-leaning yuppie is a kind of idealism, but OK.
While data are difficult to come by, New Orleans has been attracting an increasing number of young people, something the city had trouble doing in the decades before Katrina. Tulane University geographer Rich Campanella has estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 young people, whom he has referred to as “idealistic millennials,” have settled in the city, in the process making New Orleans a hot destination among recent college graduates.

While the influx has generally been welcomed by city officials and municipal boosters, it also has sparked complaints that New Orleans is becoming harder to afford for some of those who have long called it home.
At least, that's the most common denominator among the newcomers. In reality, "15,000-20,000" young people aren't likely to fit into any one ideological category.  That would constitute a political movement.  Mostly what you see in New Orleans politics these days is apathy.  Also, those numbers are probably grossly overstated.

Plus, one wonders how the census estimates population while accounting for the fact that a growing percentage of people staying in New Orleans don't actually live here.
Hotels are filling up fast and listings on sites like Craigslist are being added every day. But these private, short-term rentals are illegal in New Orleans.

"Some people genuinely don't know that it's illegal, but a lot of people do and we just need to make sure that everyone - even the people who aren't doing it but whose neighbors are doing it - are aware that it's not permitted," says Meg Lousteau, Executive Director of Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associations, or VCPORA.

Lousteau says illegal short-term rentals have long been a problem in the French Quarter, one that's only getting worse with sites like Airbnb.

"There's definitely been an uptick, and we're seeing it spread to other neighborhoods," she says. "We get calls all the time from neighborhoods around town - Marigny, Treme, Bywater, Faubourg St. John, Uptown, Algiers Point - where neighbors are horrified to find out that the cute little house next to them that used to house a family is now being rented out to college kids for spring break."

VCPORA members estimate that the city loses about $1.4 million in taxes and licensing fees each year to illegal rentals.
Maybe vacation rental is a kind of ideology too.  If you've ever seen a timeshare sales presentation, you wouldn't doubt it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thanks, The NSA

You've successfully encouraged better internet standards.. in other countries.
Brazil's lower chamber of Congress approved groundbreaking legislation on Tuesday aimed at guaranteeing equal access to the Internet and protecting the privacy of its users in the wake of U.S. spying revelations.

To ensure passage of the bill, the government had to drop a contentious provision that would have forced global Internet companies to store data on Brazilian servers inside the country.

The rule was added last year to proposed Internet governance legislation after revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on the personal communications of Brazilians, including those of President Dilma Rousseff.

Instead, the bill says companies such as Google and Facebook are subject to Brazilian laws and courts in cases involving information about Brazilians, even if the data is stored on servers abroad.
The government refused to drop another key provision on Net neutrality that was opposed by telecom companies because it bars them from charging higher prices for different content, such as video streaming and voice services such as Skype.

“Without neutrality, the Internet looks more like cable TV, where providers can offer different service packages,” Brazilian law professor Ronaldo Lemo told TechCrunch. “Basic service would include email and the social networks. ‘Premium’ would let you watch videos and listen to music. ‘Super Premium’ would let you download. Today that sounds like an aberration, but without Net neutrality, it’s a possibility.”
 Meanwhile, in this country, we're forever paying more for more limited service.  But at least some good was done in the world somewhere. 

Serpas signal

Looks like we've resumed our regular Thursday Night routine.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Unit will conduct a sobriety checkpoint on Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Orleans Parish.  The checkpoint will begin at approximately 9:00 P.M., and will conclude at about 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc., available if requested.
Drive safely

Sheldon Primary

What does Bobby Jindal have to do to get invited to the important Scotch tastings? Somehow he missed Sheldon Adelson's roll call here.
This strategy would favor more-established 2016 hopefuls such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. All four will descend this week on Adelson’s luxury hotel in Las Vegas, the Venetian, for an important step in what some are calling the “Sheldon Primary.”

Officially, the potential 2016 candidates will be at the Venetian for the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which begins Thursday with a golf outing, followed by a VIP dinner featuring Bush and hosted by the Adelsons in the private airplane hangar where Adelson keeps his fleet.

But some of the most important events will occur between the poker tournament, Scotch tasting and strategy workshops. That’s when Adelson is scheduled to hold casual one-on-one chats — over coffee, at dinner or in his private office — with the prospective candidates.

"Threat to the public"

A disciplinary review board wants James Gray disbarred or suspended from private law practice.
The committee, which held three hearings about the complaints, found that Gray didn’t provide “competent representation,” failing to communicate with clients or return their files. He also did not cooperate with the state Office of Disciplinary Council that investigated him, the committee said.

“The Committee believes that (Gray) would be a threat to the public should he be allowed to continue his practice of law in the manner established at the hearings of these claims,” a three-member panel wrote in its 33-page recommendation.
Luckily, Gray was just reelected to the City Council where any "threat" he could potentially pose to the public is minimal. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I thought she said she was trying

Jackie seemed really super serious about the election.  At least that's what she told us during the final week.  She said that now she had finished with all the holiday malaise and the boring work stuff and everything that she was ready to buckle down and do some things.
“It is different this time because I’m really running a race,” Clarkson said recently in her office at City Hall, ticking off things that were competing with her primary campaign. “I was still running a city during the primary. I was still post-budget. I was still council-at-large very seriously trying to end a year with a lot of demands on me as president of the council. It was Christmas with a large family … but this is a new day. Now I’m running a race.”
 Today NOLA.com says that Jackie spent "just $8,000" on election day GOTV efforts.
Of the $8,011 in expenses, Clarkson paid $3,410 to workers and the $4,601 balance went to organizations for election day activities, food for workers and other supplies. Her major expenditures included $2,134 to BPDC of Metairie for automated calls; $1,200 to the Rev. Aubry Wallace of New Orleans for election day workers; and $600 to John Parker Trio, which played at her election night party.
Sounds like they had an OK party. I hope the Lithuanian consul was entertained, at least.  Anyway, it looks like Jackie spent about $1.45 per vote on election day.  That's generally not considered to be very much.  I'd be interested in comparing it to what Ramsey spent, though,  if that report comes out today as expected.

Kick but don't dunk

This morning, Saints owner Tom Benson was asked about the team's negotiations with superstar tight-end.. receiver... large ginger dude.. whatever he wants to be. (He wants you to know he's Jimmy! in any case) Jimmy Graham.

Benson said he might have to take some alternative persuasive measures.
"There's not much pressure to get this thing done right quick now that it got on the backburner a little bit," Benson said. "We've got so much stuff going, but it will get worked out pretty quick. I'm going to kick him a little bit (Benson chuckled). I like him. He's a nice guy. And he loves my wife (Gayle). I'm going to put her on him."
Benson didn't sick his wife on  Graham.. but he may have gotten some help from his fellow owners who did, in fact, kick Jimmy a little today.
Sometimes, when an NFL player scores a touchdown in a game, he does a fun thing where he jumps into the air and "dunks" the football over the goalpost. Everyone likes it when players do this, because touchdowns are cool and so are dunks and so is watching a football player get really excited about the cool thing he just did. Naturally, the NFL has decided that this fun cannot be tolerated.
Others have pointed out that this is the third dubious rule change in recent memory where the NFL appears to have targeted the Saints in some way.

I am never one to argue that the NFL is not, in fact, a terrible person.  And, make no mistake, this is a stupid stupid rule change and a clear demonstration of the terribleness that is NFL.   At the same time, though, I can't be the only person who was tired of the dunk thing after like the second time it happened, right?

Louisiana's anti-poverty program

Debt for everybody!  We don't care if it's that student loan you took out to get that useless degree from an unaccredited for-profit college, or if it's the payday loan you take out every other week just to keep up.  You're gonna owe somebody some money.

 And it's going to be money you will struggle to pay back for pretty much ever.
James said his legislation, House Bill 239, addresses what he describes as the industry’s predatory lending practices by capping interest rates at 36 percent.

“The heart of the issue is that we have to change the enormous interest rates being charged,” he said. “I have 12 payday lenders in my district. They are strategically placed to prey on working-class folks who just need a bridge to get from point A to B. Their model is to get people to keep coming back.”
And the reason you have to do this is because of freedom. 
Amy Cantu, a spokeswoman for Community Financial Services Associations of America, said increased regulation of payday lending in other states has had the unintended consequence of forcing lenders out of business. Consequently, borrowers turn to unlicensed and unregulated lenders both in the U.S. and offshore.
According to John Maginnis, the financial lobbyists might have the upper hand with regard to this bill. They've done such a great job, in fact, that Maginnis and Errol Laborde spent a few minutes on last week's Informed Sources basically agreeing with their position.

 Here's a link to that show.  Also of note there is Errol's "Top 8 stories of the past 30 years" list which somehow leaves out any mention of the Macondo oil disaster.. or anything having to do with oil and gas really. They don't even talk about coastal loss.  It makes you wonder which lobbyists help Errol make out his lists.

But I digress.  Back to the topic of all this money Louisiana's political leadership thinks you should owe. Bobby Jindal thinks it's a bad idea for anyone to ensure that the student loan you took out actually goes toward paying for anything of value.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Friday slammed the Obama Administration’s plan that would require “career colleges to do a better job of preparing students for gainful employment—or risk losing access to taxpayer-funded federal student aid.”

According to the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, the administration’s “gainful employment program” is designed to reform “low-performing programs” that leave students “saddled by debt and with few—if any—options for a career.”

“The proposed regulations address growing concerns about unaffordable levels of loan debt for students enrolled in these programs by targeting the lowest-performing programs,” he said, “while shining a light on best practices and giving all programs an opportunity to improve.”
The reason for this is, again, because of freedom.. and also maybe because President Obama is racist, or something.. but mostly for freedom.
In an editorial at the Washington Times, however, Gov. Jindal accuses the administration of “[t]argeting only institutions that serve non-traditional students…who come from disproportionately low-income, African-American, and Hispanic communities.”

He claims that the new federal standards — intended to protect students by “requiring institutions to tell current and potential students about key outcomes, like average debt levels, earnings, loan repayment rates, loan default rates, and completion and withdrawal rates” — will drive “quality programs” out of business.
And that's the Louisiana anti-poverty program.  We make sure the institutions that prey on the poor aren't ever in any danger of becoming poor themselves.

I suppose they could turn it into the Ron Forman tollway

Pretty sure they're going to let Newcomb Boulevard become a private street no matter how much opposition there is. The people who live there want to buy it. They have all the money and the right friends and all the time in the world.

Monday, March 24, 2014

King Mayo

If you haven't been playing along with SB Nation's alternative brackets series, the condiments bracket is a good one to start with. I'd put my Final Four of Mayo, Hollandaise, Soy Sauce, and Mole up against anybody's.  But, in the end, Mayo is Rock. Nothing beats Rock.

"Buyer Friendly"

Crescent City San Francisco

What is a city, really, if not a luxury product?
Through the combined efforts of local real estate agents and residents eager to stake out their own patch of the city, the neighborhoods and districts that have defined San Francisco for generations are being trimmed and tailored into ever smaller, buyer-friendly niche communities.
We talk a lot about neighborhoods and place names in New Orleans too.  The most often cited essay on New Orleans places comes from Richard Campanella where he argues in favor of a mutable and organic understanding of neighborhoods and their boundaries.
The exercise of drawing neat, orderly polygons on chaotic, contested urban space necessarily produces arbitrary and artificial units. Humanity, like nature, resists straight lines and 90-degree angles.

Neighborhoods, I believe, have soft, porous geographies defined and named best by those who live there. They are deeply revealing of history, culture, and group viewpoints, and vary complexly over time. Understanding them requires a healthy dose of postmodernism: a willingness to question the received wisdom, come to terms with uncertainty and ambiguity, and accept the possibility of multiple truths. You can learn a lot about this city and its people by adopting that mindset.
These San Francisco place names aren't "deeply revealing of history, culture, and group viewpoints." As "buyer friendly" brands carved out by real estate agents, they're actually the opposite of that.
For folks looking to sell property, there's the hope that a friendly name or boundary change can add to the size of a hot community or transform a neighborhood with a sketchy reputation into a magnet for new renters and home buyers.

The fact that many of the changes are aimed at neighborhoods with a heavy minority presence isn't lost on the people who live there.

Last month, for example, Supervisor Malia Cohen complained that the first new housing project carved out of the old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard is being marketed as the "San Francisco Shipyard," with all reference to its heavily African American community edited out.
The new names are designed specifically to obscure a city's history in order that they may be sold anew as if from a "blank slate." 

I live on Carondelet Street in an area that can best be described as on the porous cusp between the Garden District and what people my age came to know as "Central City."  Varg might call it "the shooting side" of St. Charles.

A couple of years ago I met a real estate agent at a party who happened to have been trying to sell the house across the street from me. I thought this was a neat enough coincidence so I went into a long talk about how much I enjoy living in Central City.

"Garden District," she corrected me.  "That's in the Garden District." 

And, of course, this is a subjective matter. 

I know of only two legal definitions of the boundaries of the Garden District. According to "the 73 official neighborhoods" map,  St. Charles Avenue is the border.  On the other hand, the Garden District Security taxing district extends to Carondelet.  There is a business at the corner of Third and Carondelet which used to call itself "Garden District Laundromat"

Mardi Gras morning

But it has since given up that name.

Black and Gold Wash and Fold

I've been there in the same beat up apartment in this neighborhood for almost 15 years now. I think it's comfortable, convenient to work and to downtown, and, most importantly, still affordable. I enthusiastically explained all of this to the real estate lady while continually pointedly referring to the area as "Central City."  She corrected me a few more times but I kept on doing it.  It was like I dragging down her sale price with every repetition. Eventually she got annoyed and stopped talking to me. 

The house sold for almost half a million anyway so I can't imagine what she might have been worried about.  The other day, I noticed the multi-unit building next door to that one is up for sale now.  In recent years it has been available to short-term renters via Airbnb.

As for the rest of the neighborhood, it's looking up as well.  Two years ago some folks put together a new neighborhood association under the retro place name "Faubourg Livaudais."  If I happen to run into whoever is handling the sale I'll be sure and ask if the new nomenclature helps with the "buyer-friendly" branding.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

It seems like kind of a cliche to invoke Kafka

But, really, how else does one describe Road Home?
Who's really to blame for homeowners getting more money than they ought to have received: ICF or the state of Louisiana itself? In some cases it may be ICF. In other cases it may the state. But none of that matters to homeowners caught between these two warring parties. If they've been mailed letters suggesting that they acted fraudulently when they didn't do anything wrong, then they should be provided documentation that clears everything up, a letter that gives them permission to never have to think about Road Home again.

 But here some of them are in 2014 with Road Home officials pestering them still.

Still unvanished

Maybe the magic microbes are pooping.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi environmental authorities say oil debris found this week on state barrier islands is believed to be from the BP's disastrous 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and contractors for the oil giant are involved in the cleanup.

Officials believe high winds and seasonal low tides uncovered the material.

Mississippi's Department of Environmental Quality said Friday that 10 pounds of tar balls were found this week on West Ship Island and between 200 and 300 pounds were found on Horn Island.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hey that's our job!

Moseley's description suggests we think about the "comments" scandal at the US Attorney's Office as a coordinated plan to run a sort of online propaganda campaign against federal prosecution targets.
Granted, the online comments don’t mean that Ray Nagin, or the Danziger defendants or Renee Gill Pratt are suddenly innocent. But they raise the question of whether those figures — and numerous others — received a fair trial. If the Danziger defendants were right that the government waged “a secret public relations campaign” on the internet— in other words, if the “lone wolves” did in fact operate as a pack — we’ll have to steel ourselves for a flurry of (grueling) retrials and re-sentencings.
And I think I've figured out the real reason  the political media is so concerned about these activities. It's territorial.  Usually promoting the unquestioned benevolence of federal prosecutors while smearing their targets in the news is their job.

Koch head

Senator Vitter bravely stands up for America.
“I think the Koch brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth. […]

“God bless the Koch brothers. They’re fighting for our freedoms.”
Not sure if the Louisiana office of AFP has chosen a Gubernatorial pony yet but Vitter can't have hurt his chances in the pageant.   There will be plenty of time to worry about that, though.  In the meantime, Vitter has other clients to worry about.
Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC) officials urged BP Plc to drill deeper into the Gulf of Mexico well that caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history even after BP warned that doing so would be unsafe.

A BP executive and a geologist working on the Macondo well rejected Anadarko’s urging to deepen the well, according to e-mails sent the week before the April 2010 deep-sea blowout. BP officials said in the e-mails, unsealed this month in lawsuits over the spill, that the well’s condition “provided for little to no margin to continue drilling” safely.

Justice Department lawyers are asking U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans to consider Anadarko’s e-mails as proof the Texas-based oil explorer was involved in day-to-day monitoring and decisions at the Macondo well when he calculates a potentially multibillion-dollar pollution fine against the drilling partners.
Recall that Vitter has been working to limit Anadarko's liability for the Macondo disaster for some time now. While it's difficult to determine whether Anadarko, as a corporate person, is among "the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth,"  one can't help but assume that advocacy of drilling deeper without regard for safety is a plus in Vitter's book.

Probably didn't ask for enough seafood marketing money

It's been twenty-five years since the Exxon Valdez disaster.  Alaskan fisheries and wildlife have yet to fully recover.
Bernie Culbertson was preparing to fish cod when the Exxon Valdez ran aground. With oil in the water, fishing came to a standstill and life for he and other fishermen drastically changed.

"The bottom fell out of the price of fish," he said. Pink salmon that sold for 80 cents per pound fell to 8 cents per pound. Consumers turned to farm fish or tuna out of fear of tainted salmon. His boat caught 2.5 million pound of pinks one season and lost money.

Culbertson turned to other fisheries, traveling as far as California. Fishing 12 months a year, his marriage failed. Friends couldn't repay loans and lost boats or homes. Exxon compensation checks, minus what fishermen earned on spill work, arrived too late for many.

The fisheries today are not the same. "The shrimp are slowly, slowly coming back. The crab aren't back. The herring aren't back. The salmon are back in abundance," he said.

Well nevermind then

Been trying to figure out how to properly put these parking lots for graft for over a year now.  Just gonna take the ball and go home, I guess.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

More election maps

The Lens has maps of turnout and margin of victory  in last week's municipal elections.  There's been some discussion over whether Gusman's or Williams's "coattails" were the bigger factor citywide.  I'm decidedly  on the Williams side of that.

I'm having trouble locating the Lithuanian precincts, though.  Did they vote absentee?

Yes he can

Misunderestimate Edwin Edwards at your own peril, guys. Of course he is an obvious long shot to become the next US Congressman from Louisiana's 6th District for various good reasons. But this does not mean he won't have a puncher's chance of stealing this thing.

LA -06 is a grossly gerrymandered Republican district. But, as Adrastos puts it, Edwards has "got the full Blue Dog pander on."  And, in typical EWE fashion, it's of an especially slick variety.  Earlier this week we poked him a bit for backtracking on the Affordable Care Act. But a careful reading of his statements on that as well as other issues reveals some subtle calculations already at work.

Even in what we like to think of as a hyper-partisan and hypocritical environment Edwards is able to sound like a credible moderate.  Here he is, in the same breath, expressing support for the Keystone Pipeline and inviting a dialogue with Russell Honore's "Green Army."
On issues, he said he favors the approval of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline and would like to spur along a study to look at securing funds for high-speed rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. He also said he's also been in touch with another famous Cajun -- Lt. Gen. Russel Honore -- to discuss his Green Army's environmental concerns regarding Baton Rouge's aquifer.
Don't expect Edwards to be too gung-ho in this arena, though.  His website states that he "will fight to protect our coastline," but, unlike supporters of the SLFPAE's lawsuit against the oil and gas industry, Edwards leaves the identity of "those responsible" for the damage open to interpretation.
I promise to join with local government to find those responsible for the damage caused, and I will work to ensure the perpetrators pay for restoring our coastline in so far as it is possible.
That's probably not a statement that will fire up the greens.  There's an O.J.-esque search for "the real killers" quality to it. But politically speaking, it's a well-positioned approach to voters in that district.  It acknowledges, however lightly, the fact of damage caused to the coastline and that there are "perpetrators" worth pursuing. It does not resort to reactionary drivel about "protecting job creators" or any language that explicitly rules out the possibility that oil companies might be among the vaguely defined "perpetrators."

This might not satisfy me or probably most of the people who check this site regularly but it does toe a line appropriate to Louisiana's uncomfortable and complicated relationship with the oil industry.  Yesterday, for example, $850 million in new Gulf oil leases were sold in New Orleans.  It was an especially significant sale because it took place under new terms.
About $2.1 million from nine of the leases sold Wednesday will go directly to Louisiana coastal restoration efforts, and the state is expected to gain billions more from the leases over time. That's because the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which was passed in 2006 by Landrieu and former Sen. Pete Domenici, allows Louisiana to share in 37.5 percent of today's bonuses and bids, as well as the same percentage of royalty and rental payments once the tracts start producing. The money goes to rebuilding coastal wetlands, as well as hurricane and flood protection projects, many of which have already been delineated in the state's coastal master plan.
Oil and gas production is Louisiana's dominant industry.  It's killing us. But it's also helping us pay for our pain medication.  Any serious candidate in the 6th District is going to tread carefully around this.

This week, on his entertaining Twitter account, Edwards was asked specifically about his role in enabling oil and gas activity in Louisiana.  His answer came in three tweets:

1) Oil and gas permits are let by the feds.  This is technically true but sort of a dodge.

2) "Most of it was done in the 30s"  Also a dodge and difficult to interpret.  It's possible that he means the most crucial damage to the Louisiana wetlands occurred when oil exploration began to take off there.  But this doesn't answer anyone's questions about what might have been done to mitigate the ongoing damage as such activities continued throughout the century... a good portion of which included Edwin Edwards' career in government.

3) "I never gave permission to damage the coast" Yes, well, we're not likely to find any tapes of him having done that explicitly.

These are not particularly strong statements from Edwards but here is what is interesting about them. Among the announced candidates for this seat, Edwards is the only one whose statements about the Louisiana coast even suggest that there are "perpetrators" who need to be held responsible and that those perpetrators just might be oil companies.  Garret Graves also acknowledges the causality between oil exploration and coastal loss but he has famously taken the lead in Bobby Jindal's efforts to shield the industry from being held accountable.  At this point, it's Edwards who has managed to say the most while risking the least.

Similarly, Edwards's shifting position on the Affordable Care Act is more subtle than the "flip flop" some have characterized it as.  Yesterday, Gambit described Edwards as "foursquare against it now ... unlike, say, six months ago."  But this is a gross misreading.

Here is what Edwards told Larry King six months ago
King asked whether he supports the President’s health care reforms, or Obamacare.  “Oh, absolutely,” he said, saying that, at 86, he remembers when Social Security was first introduced, with cries that it would bankrupt the country and ruin society.   Repeating the populist theme echoed several times Sunday, Edwards said it was the poor, the young and the elderly who are most in need of government’s help, which he said the health care reforms would do.

He is clearly no fan of current Gov. Bobby Jindal and criticized him for rejecting the Medicaid expansion that Edwards said would help thousands of poor Louisiana residents without health insurance.  When King asked whether Jindal’s decision was motivated by a desire for higher political office, Edwards revealed that he has never met or spoken to Jindal, whom he called a “different sort of person,” before adding he wishes Jindal well.
Now go watch the Chuck Todd interview that Gambit is calling a reversal.  Edwards tells Todd that, were he a Congressman at the time, he would not have voted for ACA because it was "too long, too technical, too involved, and subject to pitfalls."

These things are all true.  The ACA is an unnecessarily complicated bank shot scheme to protect the insurance industry from the most serious threat of an American single-payer health care system it is ever likely to face.  It was a huge disappointment to advocates of real health care reform. There's no fault in considering having voted against it on those grounds.  And yet, now that it is the law of the land, there are clearly beneficial aspects of it that are worth supporting.  This is precisely Edwards' position.

Here is his statement on ACA from his campaign website
I will work to keep good provisions within the Affordable Care Act. For example, the demand should be kept for people with pre-existing conditions to not feel afraid of losing insurance, or not being able to afford a policy. Children should be allowed to remain on the policies of their parents until they reach the age of 26. Many of our young people are seeking further education after undergraduate degrees, and they deserve to feel secure if they become ill or injured.

I will always see the importance of benefits of coverage for children, the elderly, the unemployed and underemployed. Statistics state that nearly 400,000 of our citizens do not have healthcare benefits. That in itself is a shocking figure. If the Federal Government agrees to the continued 100% costs of insurance for three years and 90% costs thereafter, that is a bargain that Louisiana cannot afford to pass up. Louisiana needs this. If not us, then another state will reap these benefits, and where will that leave those 400,000 citizens?

No other candidate in the race talks about Obamacare in these terms. Certainly no candidate who "opposes" the ACA talks about it terms of "the poor, the young, and the elderly who are most in need of government's help."  This was what Edwin Edwards emphasized to Larry King.  And it is what he emphasizes now, as a candidate, who supports keeping "good provisions within the Affordable Care Act." Edwards hasn't made a "180 degree flip-flop" as Gambit says.  He's refined his rhetoric to reflect a moderate approach while keeping the substantive policy implications constant.

These are the skills that made Edwards such an effective southern populist throughout his career.  He is able to talk about issues from a wholly independent perspective and with a knack for appearing to err on the side of common folk. And this is why I say Edwards has a puncher's chance of winning this race. Put aside the question of whether you agree with his positions (I especially think he's wrong on energy policy) and ask if he plays them convincingly in comparison with his opponents.

Edwards wants to build the Keystone Pipeline because he believes doing that will employ "20,000 good local men and women."  But he leaves the door open to punishing the "perpetrators" of Louisiana's coastal loss.  Any position his strongest opponent, Garret Graves, takes in this regard is colored by a perceived fealty to oil and gas based on his role in the Jindal administration.

Edwards favors accepting the Medicaid expansion in order to strengthen the admittedly flawed ACA. Graves has refused to take any public position regarding Medicaid.  Suffice to say, Graves will be tasked with distinguishing himself from Jindal in general.  If that process somehow obliges Graves to recalibrate his rhetoric in relation to any of his prior statements, it will be interesting to see how quickly anyone jumps to call that a "flip-flop."

Happy Iraq Day

Walter Isaacson is a big jerk.
Walter Isaacson is pushed hard by Moyers and finally admits, “We didn’t question our sources enough.” But why? Isaacson notes there was “almost a patriotism police” after 9/11 and when the network showed civilian casualties it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and “big people in corporations were calling up and saying, ‘You’re being anti-American here.’”

Moyers then mentions that Isaacson had sent a memo to staff, leaked to the Washington Post, in which he declared, “It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan” and ordered them to balance any such images with reminders of 9/11. Moyers also asserts that editors at the Panama City (Fla.) News-Herald received an order from above, “Do not use photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties. Our sister paper has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening emails.”
And the lesson  is, a responsible media executive who receives marching orders from his corporate sponsors should always go along to get along. There will be plenty of time to say "oops" later. The important thing is that everyone continues to see you as a responsible person.

Also tough; it's important that people see you as tough.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Serpas Signal

I was starting to wonder why we hadn't seen one of these in such a long while.  It was nice of them to wait until after St. Patrick's Day and even St. Joseph's Night to do this.   Hope y'all don't have any plans Thursday night, though.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Unit will conduct a sobriety checkpoint on Thursday, March 20, 2014, in Orleans Parish.  The checkpoint will begin at approximately 9:00 P.M., and will conclude at about 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc., available if requested.
Be safe out there. 

The most expensive program that we have

1) Give away all the revenue in the form of tax "incentives" (which, by the way, tend to become ethically dubious financial vehicles)

2) ???

3) Profit!

Still, this growth in the economy and Louisiana job market isn't reflected in the state's revenue. This year, Louisiana is only expected to see income tax collection growth around two percent. Corporate tax collection is supposed to decline by nearly 17 percent, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office.
Of course the "Hollywood South" tax credits are the ones that get all media attention given that they're.. you know.. movies plus all the people who go to jail and stuff.  But surely they aren't that expensive just by themselves, right?
Still, Moret also acknowledges that tax breaks and credits are being used more often than in previous years. "When you look at the utilization of tax exemptions, it has been on an unprecedented growth curve," he said.

Louisiana Economic Development administers and advocates for some of state's most high-profile tax breaks for businesses, but Moret said the agency is responsible for a relatively small amount of the state's total tax incentives.

He did acknowledge that Louisiana's film tax credit program costs state government money. "From a fiscal perspective, it is by far the most expensive program that we have," said Moret of the state's financial incentive for the film industry, which has brought several movie productions to Louisiana.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Billionaires love us

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wants the world to follow New Orleans's example when it comes to divorcing public education from democracy.
He appears to be presenting a vision of education in the United States where nearly all students are educated in collections of charter schools: “So what we have to do is to work with school districts to grow steadily, and the work ahead is really hard because we’re at 8% of students in California, whereas in New Orleans they’re at 90%, so we have a lot of catchup to do.”  Really? Even many charter advocates recognize that the charter model will not work for a majority of America’s school children. Besides, if he is using the charter-heavy New Orleans Recovery School District as a model, we should run for the hills.

After Hurricane Katrina, most of the schools in the recovery discovery were turned in to charters, which reformers like Hastings see as a silver bullet to all that ails public education. But many of the district’s charters do worse than the traditional public schools, and many of those that do at all better have selective admissions. And there’s this, from a story last September from the Times-Picayune: “The Recovery School District reprimanded nine New Orleans charter schools in the first four months of a accountability system that aims to tighten oversight of 59 largely independent campuses, according to public records.” Imagine that. The charter governance wasn’t good enough.
Has NOLA.com reported on this speech yet?  Despite the paper's own reporting cited above, the headline will be "Netflix CEO praises New Orleans Education Reform"  with an exclamation mark if they can get away with it. 


School building converted to condos. The condos are selling for $3 million. This must be a very intensely "cool" place on the Campanella Coolness Map. Like a great big black hole of cool. The kind of black hole that sucks in schools and spits out vacation homes. Sounds healthy. 


There was an election Saturday.  I've got some sayings to communicate about that later. But first, please look at all the pretty pictures it made.

Uptown Messenger is once again publishing Brian Denzer's Pac-Man map analysis.

Ever since I first saw these... I think after the 2006 elections... I wondered why we couldn't get real time election night results in this format.

 Eight year later, The Lens finally did something about that.

In it to win it

Former Governor Edwin Edwards speaking to Larry King at an event in September 2013:
"The government is there to serve the needy, not the greedy," Edwards said to applause. "The last time I said that, someone yelled, 'You served yourself, so you must be greedy!'"

When discussing President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is also known as Obamacare, Edwards emphasized his support for the plan and voiced his concern over Gov. Bobby Jindal eschewing the policy.

"I remember when Social Security was passed, and you had the same view and cry that it was socialism. … Years from now, the same voices loud in opposition to it will begin to change their minds," Edwards said.
Sixth Congressional District candidate Edwin Edwards at his first campaign press conference today:
Saying "I did not vote for Obama. Where I was, there were no voting machines," Edwards told the crowd he would not have supported the Affordable Care Act, before adding that he also disapproved of Gov. Bobby Jindal's refusal to accept federal Obamacare funding. Edwards also said he wanted to be on the House Public Works and Agriculture committees, before launching into a long anecdote about Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon. "Alea iacta est," he concluded — Latin for "the die is cast."
Not entirely a flip-flop so much as backtracking into a position where he's trying to have it both ways.  But still, it's clearly a shift into campaign mode. Let the games begin. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Servitude of Drainage throughout the centuries

From The Lens:
If your opponents in a lawsuit — in this case, all-powerful oil and gas companies — are trying the case in the court of public opinion, what’s your best response?

Law firms seeking to force energy interests to pay for damaging the Louisiana coast answered that question Thursday, unveiling a 143-year timeline and supporting documents.

It was a bid to win public backing for the suit — including support from state lawmakers who might try to derail it in the legislative session ahead.

Some of the documents are laws and regulations governing industry activities. Others show the state’s efforts at enforcement. And a third set are internal industry documents revealing that some of the companies knew they were breaking laws and damaging wetlands.
It's an easy and fun thing to flip through. Try playing around with it a while


James Gill on the Continue Paying  Ron Forman Six Figures For Some Reason millage:
A portion of the increased tax revenue will be earmarked for ANI’s Species Survival Center in Algiers, where we are told the bongo and the okapi are among the animals to be bred. There could be baby unicorns running around there for all we know, because the public is not allowed in.

We know the ANI does a bang-up job though. Anyone who can afford the admission prices will be full of praise for the zoo, the aquarium and all its other attractions.

Taxpayers, who are generally loath to trust their elected officials with a dime, may well decide on Saturday to give the ANI, a private nonprofit, a multimillion-dollar free rein for half a century. That the proposal has not been laughed off the ballot is testimony to the high esteem in which the ANI and its hard-charging president, Ron Forman, are held. Chances of passage are boosted because Forman fans are well-organized and motivated and this is an off-election.
Good to see the tide slowly turn against this thing among the commentariat at least.  (See also Courreges here.)  It will undoubtedly pass anyway, though. 

Buy some (cool) dirt

Ray Nagin 2006:
He said that billions of dollars will be invested into the rebuilding effort and urged the audience to "buy some dirt in New Orleans."

"New Orleans is getting ready to be the biggest job site in the world," he said.

While touting the positives of the city, Nagin also said the wait continues for delivery of money the government has approved for homeowners. He acknowledged the biggest issue still facing the city is inadequate housing.
It's worth remembering that even at a point less than one year after the flood even Ray Nagin understood that the federal recovery investment in New Orleans was going to set off a boom.  (Something like a boom, anyway.) [Update 3/14: This was the part of the post where I had intended to make an "Exlpoding Pie" reference but forgot to put the link in.  Sorry.  Happy Pi Day]

We spend a lot of time and ink and virtual ink praising the Hollywood buzz and tourism driven real estate bubble we're experiencing and calling that "recovery."  But that's all just booster babble obscuring the federal investment that has been the real driver here.

Every major project in town you see hailed as a "sign of recovery" whether it's the Mid-City hospital complex, the Loyola Streetcar, the "five new libraries" (actually five old libraries rebuilt but whatever),  the "revitalized" Main Streets, the Circle Food Store, or even the new Whole Foods on Broad,  all of that stuff is happening thanks to federal grant funds mostly tied directly to disaster recovery.

It might be advantageous to some to go around proclaiming this is all the work of "entrepreneurs" and movie magicians, but really those are just stories about the yuppies who have followed the money here.  And in the process, these folks have done some funny things to the housing market.

Richard Campanella says, in so many words here, that recently arrived trendies have bid up the cost of living according to a "coolness map."  Well.. maybe. The further Campanella ventures out into the world of punditry he gets himself into more and more trouble giving some pet concepts and lazy generalizations the imprimatur of academic legitimacy.

For example, this recent article on Bourbon Street (a preview of his new book) makes a number of simplistic assumptions about who is or is not an "authenticity seeker."
Not everyone plays the authenticity game. Many working-class natives of metro New Orleans, particularly African Americans, have all the authenticity they need, and tend to view Bourbon Street as harmless, naughty fun. Middle-class folks throughout the region enjoy it for what it is and shrug off its faults. It’s the cultural elite and their aspirants who obsess about authenticity, going so far as to segregate nearly all aspects of city life into an authentic/inauthentic dualism. They would universally agree, for example, that the Seventh Ward, St. Claude Avenue, the bounce scene, second-line parades, Mardi Gras Indians, and anything to do with Creoles all sparkle with realness. And with equal unanimity they renounce the upper Quarter, the French Market, Indian-owned T-shirt shops, and anything related to Bourbon Street. To be sure, most are willing to concede a few spots of Good Bourbon amid ten blocks of Bad Bourbon. Even the most rabid haters revere Galatoire’s, say nice things about Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, maintain a polite neutrality regarding the St. Ann queer space, and enjoy Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, whose candlelit interior wins over just about everyone. But these exceptions only prove the rule — and progressives rule that Bourbon Street is phony, period.
I want to agree with this paragraph. It mostly rings true.  But it is also too neat. Worse, it appears to assume that only the "cultural elite" are capable of introspection.. however navel-gazey it may be in this case.  I know Campanella probably does not mean to imply this but one reads this article and finds the need to say that aversion to phoniness is neither an upper class privilege nor any sort of character flaw.  Pretentiousness, on the other hand, is.  Campanella seems to conflate these.  

I don't want to get bogged down in this Bourbon Street stuff.  I agree with Campanella's aim to defend it as an "unpretentious" place. But it's possible to be both annoyed by and fascinated with a thing at the same time. As someone who has spent far more time on Bourbon Street than on its truly more pretentious alternatives (Frenchmen, St. Claude) I can both say that Bourbon Street is awful and that I'd rather go there than most places.

It's a shame Campanella has this tendency to make his valuable work so difficult to trust at times.  When he's good, he's very very good.  This paragraph, for instance, is very very true.. but ends up making me cringe despite myself.
Contrast this with the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the annual springtime fete that attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the Fairgrounds in Gentilly. Jazz Fest takes great pride in its musical acts and regional foods, arts and exhibits; cultural cognoscenti love it devoutly, and criticize it only when it fails to live up to its own authenticity-reverent ideals. Among the unwritten rules of self-respecting festgoers are no beads, no Bourbon T-shirts and no Bourbon antics; Jazz Fest sees itself as a cultural refuge from all that phoniness. Yet Jazz Fest was invented by a man from Massachusetts as part of a worldwide megafestival circuit — essentially a local franchise of a global chain. Meticulously choreographed and carefully policed, it is managed out of New York, coordinated by crack professionals, “presented by Shell” (a phrase now officially appended to the event’s name), increasingly dependent on global superstar acts, subsidized by an on-site Acura showroom, and funded by Big Oil — not to mention an entrance fee that has risen 400 percent in 10 years, to 50 dollars per person, more than the median daily take-home pay in New Orleans. Trained staffers screen the acts, taste-test the foods of every concessionaire, and inspect the merchandise of all vendors before passing authentic/inauthentic judgment. The motifs of the event are all professionally designed to affect a funky juke-joint atmosphere — bottle caps nailed to rough-hewn clapboards, folk-style naïve art, helter-skelter multicolored lettering, that sort of thing. Jazz Fest is the epitome of invented, planned, centralized cultural control that leaves nothing to chance and covers its tracks with the trappings and aesthetics of authenticity. An existential philosopher would have to be particularly generous to describe Jazz Fest as authentic, and equally parsimonious to dismiss Bourbon Street as phony. Yet that is precisely what most Bourbon-hating culture lovers do.
It's that "most Bourbon-hating culture lovers" assumption that brings the cringe back. Those terms are too loose and poorly defined. We kinda get what he's talking about. And it's fine for some rube like me to say stuff like that on my dumb personal blog.  But when you write that in a pseudo-academic setting like the magazine this article appears in, you're giving some stereotypes too much weight.

The same is true of Campanella's  "Coolness Map." There's a lot about it that rings true.  But he runs into trouble, as anyone might, not only trying to define "cool" (My God he even relies on fucking Malcolm Gladwell to do this) but also attempting to quantify and spacially represent what can only be considered highly subjective sorta-data.
Coolness constantly needs to be ahead of the mainstream, and if the mainstream catches up, coolness goes elsewhere. "The act of discovering what's cool," observed Malcolm Gladwell in an influential 1997 article entitled "The Coolhunt," "is what causes cool to move on." As it does, coolness often produces new cultural innovations and explores increasingly edgy terrain. Coolness thus becomes geographical: it occupies certain spaces, disdains others, and seeks new ones when uncoolness approaches.
It's difficult to overstate how terrible this is. It is the exact equivalent of crediting the FEMA stimulated recovery of New Orleans to American Horror Story and the guys who made that pee pee finder phone app.  It's not "coolness" that drives a neighborhood's value.  It's these more tangible factors which Campanella himself names.
True, these neighborhoods boast other advantages. They have history, architecture, walkability, high topographic elevation and favorable flood zones, not to mention proximity to resources and employment. But they had these advantages years ago, yet few came a-bidding.
Except the people did come a-bidding.   It's just that you only notice the a-bidding heating up when there's a lot of money a-floating around town.  This happens in starts and stops. Here is GNOCDC's description of gentrification in the Irish Channel during the late 1990s.
In 1990, 1 in 4 Irish Channel houses was vacant. By the late 1990s, things were turning around in the neighborhood. Ms. Husing points out that change has been happening with incredible speed. “The houses that weren’t torn down are being purchased and renovated. And the people who own section 8 rentals are doing renovations for higher-paying tenants. My neighbors, little old Black ladies, are saying ‘Used to be I couldn’t give my house away. I can’t believe how much it’s worth now!’”
And that was during a marginal period of relative non-decline for New Orleans. Right now, again, thanks to the massive federal investment in rebuilding,  the market is more superheated than we've gotten used to than at any time since the oil bust of the early 80s. Take a look at this 1977 documentary by Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker about the rush to renovate and flip Irish Channel properties.  Pretty familiar stuff, right?

Of course Campanella knows all of this.  He's made a career studying and writing about the cultural geography of these neighborhoods. Where he goes wrong is his assertion that these cycles of revitalization and decline follow upon notions of perceived  "coolness" rather than the other way around.  "Coolness" is a marketing gimmick imposed after the fact by planning consultants and the real estate sales interests they typically work for. Campanella more or less describes this but it isn't clear that he grasps the point.
Jefferson Parish authorities hired a consultant from Manhattan to advise them on how to revive the district. His advice: "create a 'cluster of cool'" in the heart of Fat City, "where you can really make it look and feel different."

Managers are trying a similar strategy for the cool-challenged French Market. They've been running "Hip Scene, Historic Setting" ads in cool magazines like Offbeat, recruiting earthy craft vendors to counter the beads-and-T-shirts stigma, and piping in the very cool sounds of WWOZ into the flea market like intravenous nourishment for the ailing.

Here and elsewhere, coolness has become an urban planning strategy, and planners today wield its trappings the way their predecessors once plied golf courses and gated subdivisions. "Real" cool, meanwhile, has a mind of its own.
These slogans are not what is transforming hitherto affordable urban neighborhoods into the exclusive yuppie enclaves they're becoming.  These are just the shallow rationalizations presented in order to congratulate the yuppies for buying in.  After all, once you've sliced your building into 210 square foot "micro-mini-studios" you're not gonna get anyone to pay $600 a month for one without some flattery.
For $600 per month (utilities are included), renters get 210-square-feet of space, the luxury of a private bathroom, a kitchenette, a "private bar," which we're pretty sure is micro-dwelling code for "counter," plus internet and cable access. The ceilings are 12-feet, and good thing since it's a loft bed set-up. There are several mentions of these "quirky and luxurious, private and cooperative" rentals being "green-oriented," so take that for what it's worth.
Sure, tell them they're being "green-oriented" or something.  That sounds like it's got some coolness involved.

Meanwhile, though, look at all the free land they can't give away!
State Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, has an idea for speeding up the pace of recovery in the Lower 9th Ward: sell off some of the hundreds of government-owned properties in the sparsely populated neighborhood for $100 a pop.

He is planning to propose two bills to that effect during this year’s legislative session, one of which would tweak the Louisiana constitution in order to allow this to happen. Under existing state law, the city cannot simply give property away to individuals for less than fair market value. Bishop’s changes would allow New Orleans to donate the properties for a nominal fee.
Folks are paying three dollars per square foot to rent little boxes over in Mid City.  Maybe if someone could get some more affordable areas "back into commerce" we'd have an easier time of it, right? 
In a memorable exchange last year with James Gray, who represents the neighborhood on the City Council, Hebert warned that unloading properties all at once and below market value might destabilize the broader housing market. Since the redevelopment authority will go ahead with an auction only when there is enough interest from potential buyers, most of its lots in the hardest-hit section of the 9th Ward remain dormant.
Oh well, OK, then. Can't go around destabilizing the insane bubble we've got going, I guess.

The only thing left to do is see about generating some interest from potential buyers.  According to Campanella's thesis, all we'd have to do is "create a 'cluster of cool'" over in the Ninth Ward.  If he's right about this, I'm guessing a couple food truck rallies and an art market should do the trick.